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Books We’re Thankful For…

Books We’re Thankful For….A post from Development Director, Alexa Scott-Flaherty.

I am lucky to have been born into a family where nothing was more powerful and magical than words and stories. From a very early age my sister and I both remember the joy of looking up new words in the dictionary, of memorizing poems, of being able to quote passages from the great books, and of being old enough to finally read highly discussed books like Moby Dick. We met and had dinner with amazing writers like Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Allen Ginsberg, Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros and Tim O’Brien before we graduated from high school. Our world was one of words.

My earliest memories all involve books—ending any bad behavior as soon as I was threatened with the possibility of “no book tonight,” reading in my bedroom under the covers with a flashlight late into the night, re-enacting The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with all of my friends. It is an understatement to say I am thankful for books. It is a more accurate statement to say books give me a profound connection to other people and to the world.

This morning I am thankful for a few particular books. One of them is New Hat, Old Hat by Stan and Jan Berenstain. My young toddler invokes the name of this book whenever she is frustrated, tired or joyful as a way of asking me to connect in with her and curl up for a snuggle. Sometimes we actually read the book and sometimes we don’t (when she is screaming “new hat, new hat” from her car seat for instance is a time when we just know she needs a little attention), but for her this book means comfort. Connection. It is the first book she loved. I am grateful to this book for opening up the love of reading to my child. Another book I am thankful for is Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. I read this book when I was in college and have never looked at my day-to-day life the same again.

Over Thanksgiving I asked a few people I love to share a book they are thankful for. Here is what they wrote:

The Tao. It’s the best cure for a challenging day.” – my husband, Jon Itkin

“I am thankful for Jeanette Winterson’s Written On the Body for showing me – at such a crucial time- that is was possible to write so freshly about love.” – my sister, Caedra Scott-Flaherty

OLD FILTH” by Jane Gardam. It’s always a joy to find a book you missed along the way. Three people I love recommended this book to me in one week, now it’s my new favorite novel.” – Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” – it provides a theme of gratefulness. I am grateful to be able to run my hands through my sons’ hair, give them a hug. I am not sure if you have read it, but it was a gift for Bauby just to have ‘written’ it” – Kathy Cleary, Writers & Books Board President

The Little Prince  by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I am grateful for The Little Prince, which I read for the first time while living in Paris during the revolution of 1968 – “Egalite! Liberte! Sexualite!” Reading it felt like a miracle – in the midst of a frightening (though I must admit exciting) experience!”  – my mom, Liz Scott

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. I read this transcendent novel for the first time as an aspiring writing, and it became my talisman and the bar against which I measured my own work. It captures perfectly the mystical sadness of the Pacific Northwest.” – Debra Dean, author of The Madonnas of Leningrad 

Genoa by Paul Metcalf. This is the book that really taught me the importance of reading books that at first seemed especially difficult or vastly different from the typical narrative we are used to. In a certain sense Genoa is more like writing a book in the way a composer might create a symphony, rather than the typical literary narrative. After about 50 pages of learning how to read it I entered a world of literary discovery that I had never before encountered, and still recall that first reading with great excitement. It taught me, in practical terms, that every book deserves to be read for at least the first 50 pages–you just never know what wonderful gift that simple commitment might give back to you.

–Joe Flaherty, Founder & Executive Director of Writers & Books